Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan
NATIVITY AND THEOPHANY - DAY 6
One of the wonderful mysteries of the Feast of Nativity is that the good news of the birth of the Son of God was first given to the shepherds, who were considered a lowly and neglected class.
Living in the fields for months, while they tended their herds in season, they were unable to observe all the religious laws and customs. For this reason, they were mostly treated with disrespect as ignorant and unrefined people. So, the good tidings of the Holy Nativity were first announced to these meek and humble shepherds.
Nevertheless, tradition reveals a very interesting detail about shepherds. In the Temple of Jerusalem, a spotless lamb was sacrificed in the morning and in the evening as an offering to God. The Temple officials in Bethlehem had their own flocks to provide these unblemished offerings. It is very likely that the shepherds were tending the flock of lambs that were going to be offered in the Temple. The shepherds tending the sheep of the Temple were the first to see encounter “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Not only did they see, but as the Evangelist affirms, and the hymnographer echoes, “the bodiless hosts joined the shepherds to praise the dawning of the great light of our salvation emanating from the Father.” Incidentally, according to the custom of the time, when a boy male child was born, musicians gathered at the home to celebrate the birth of the child with music.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in a cave, and naturally, there were no musicians. However, according to God’s providence, the angels and shepherds welcomed with song the birth of his Only-begotten Son by singing, “Glory in the highest to you, great God, who came for the salvation of the universe by your Epiphany.”
Canticle Hymn of Holy Nativity, Tone V.
The giver of your glory who is without beginning, appears among us wondrously in the ineffable birth; is revealed this day to the joy of the universe.
This day the shepherds joined the celebration of the bodiless hosts, and a transparent fiery pillar of cloud was formed in the cave.
The radiance of the light spread everywhere, the magi followed the star which foretold the birth in the cave, offered gifts to the divine newborn.